Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at a Meeting of the Incorporators of the National Housing Partnership.

October 01, 1968

I HAVE BEEN involved with the legislative miracle of the American system for three decades now. The cycle is always the same: You start with an idea, a hope, a dream. You hammer it out into a plan. You subject it to all the tests of feasibility. You guide it through the hard machinery of legislation and get it on the books of law. And finally, there comes a day such as this one, when all those hopes are in the hands of men who know how to make America work--how to turn the words of law into the bricks and mortar of progress.

The Housing Act of 1968 was a landmark piece of legislation. Like the Social Security Act of a generation before--like Medicare--it is one of the 10 or 12 truly great laws of these times. It represents the desires of many men over many years to make this miraculous system of ours work to provide decent shelter for every family in America.

The Housing Act creates the tools with which that dream can at long last be hammered into reality. The most unique tool of all is the partnership which you represent and launch here today. Edgar Kaiser, and many of you in this room, worked hard to develop this structure. We put your recommendations into our request for housing legislation. The Congress honored that request, and the partnership is now authorized by law to tackle the tough, stubborn problem of getting a decent roof over every family's head.

Two basic ideas, central to all our housing hopes, are represented here in this partnership. They are more than represented--they are the foundations on which this partnership is built.

First is the fact that if we are to wipe out the shame of our society--all the substandard housing that scars our city slums and our rural areas--we must build or rehabilitate an average of 600,000 low- and moderate-income units every year for the next 10 years.

Second is the fact that this mammoth job can be done only if the skills, the expertise, and the genius of American industry and labor are focused on the problem on a scale never before attempted.

So these are the dimensions of the challenge you face as you set out from here today: Over the past 10 years, we have put up only 550,000 houses for poor and moderate families. Over the next 10 years, we will have to increase this rate by more than 10 times.

You, in this corporation, are the ones who must lead the way. You are the ones who must show us how to get from where we are, to where we must go. Industry has to do it by applying the most advanced technology, the most enlightened management techniques. Labor has to do it by applying the most productive labor practices and by helping to develop the most advanced construction methods. And all of this has to be done in a sound business way, so that the operation will bring a good return to investors. It must be done with the support of thousands of homebuilders and developers throughout the country. And it must be done in a way that assures the workingmen of America challenging and steady jobs.

The eyes of this Nation now are turned to private enterprise. It is clear to everyone that the problems our society faces are so enormous that government alone can never handle them. Only government and the private sector working in a creative partnership can offer the promise of success. I pledge to you that all the powers of this government will be mobilized to back you up in this work.

We have seen such partnership work before. ComSat, for example, offers a clear example of a successful private corporation created to handle an unprecedented challenge. That challenge, however, was in outer space.

The problems here on earth are in many ways considerably harder. We have begun to harness the private sector to tackle the problems of jobs for the unemployed through the National Alliance of Businessmen. Housing for the poor is one of the toughest of all.

But today there is great hope. I believe this problem can be solved. I believe it can be solved by this Partnership, working with the private sector, with labor, and with government. You face a great challenge and a great opportunity. I know you will succeed in your mission.

Note: The President spoke at 11:30 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. During his remarks he referred to Edgar F. Kaiser, chairman of the board of Kaiser Industries Corp. and chairman of the incorporators of the National Housing Partnership. The incorporators were nominated by the President on September 9, 1968 (see Item 471).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at a Meeting of the Incorporators of the National Housing Partnership. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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